Saw (2004)

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 4.8/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 9/10

SAW (2004) - James Wan

A man trapped in a cage filled with razor wire. An individual burned to death by flammable substance. A female rigged to have her jaw permanently ripped open. Behind this sits the Jigsaw Killer, a psychopathic mastermind, the sick architect of these twisted "games." Yes, the killer is sick. But he is sick of people who do not appreciate their blessings, people of scoff at the suffering of others.

Known as James Wan's directorial debut, Saw primarily focuses on Adam (Leigh Whannell) and Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes), who both wake up chained in a dilapidated bathroom, each given instructions to a "game." For Adam, he must escape the bathroom. For Lawrence, he must kill Adam within a certain amount of time, or else his family will die. The rest of the film revolves around other victims of the Jigsaw Killer, Adam and Gordon's abductor, as well as police detectives who attempt to locate him.

Originally rated by the MPAA as an NC-17 film, Saw is notorious for its violence. Picture yourself as a surgeon, currently operating on a patient. Next, give yourself a shot of adrenaline and play fast-paced music in the background. Use your imagination. Your projected images drive the movie. Yes, there is gore and there is a lot of blood. Fortunately, James Wan is not a complete psycho, for he still uses the power of implying over the power of exposing every bit of the movie's brutality.

For each victim of the Jigsaw Killer, they each find themselves put in a certain condition, in which they must sacrifice a part of themselves to escape. Each "trap" is theme-based, specifically designed for the trap's victim. As mentioned before, these traps range from a man being cut tremendously by razor wires to a woman having her jaw ripped open. This is where Saw closely but not completely descends into "torture porn," the number one criticism given by film critics. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, "torture porn" represents a movie where its goal is to make the audience squirm, by having them watch characters suffer to their very core, without a story or a well-written script. This is where my argument comes in. Despite Saw conveying several portrayals of violence, it mainly focuses on the two men trapped in the bathroom, and this is where a film's cinematic content comes in.

Saw is Leigh Whannell's acting debut, and it puts him in a great advantage, since he wrote the screenplay and fleshed out his own character. Even when Whannell is an unfamiliar face, a rookie to the film industry, he comes forth as one of my favorite actors in a horror film. You may not like his personality in the movie, but he is inevitably an engaging and absorbing character to watch on screen.

I have seen several movies that star Cary Elwes. These movies range from Rob Reiner's masterpiece The Princess Bride to the cinematic portrayal of the Civil War in Glory. Oh, and don't forget Mel Brooks' Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Throughout his career, Elwes tends to do humorous and family based movies, where his character is usually lovable and charming. Rarely has he done something serious, not to mention disturbing and dark. Watch Saw and get ready for an eye-opener. In this critic's perspective, Saw is Cary Elwes' best performance to date, and I would go so far as to say that it will be his greatest performance ever in his entire career, no matter what future films he will be in. The script of Saw favors Elwes' character the most out of all the characters. With Lawrence Gordon being a doctor, the film begins with him making deductive reasoning, using his head to try to figure things out. As the film progresses, Gordon slowly transitions from using his head to losing his head, from doctor to madman. Elwes portrays this with great attention to detail, from facial expressions to his style of delivery when it comes to dialogue. Again, you may not like his personality, but when his family and his own life at stake, it is inevitable for the audience to have some form of emotions for him.

Combine Elwes with Whannell, and the chemistry between the two is breathtaking. The plot of the film becomes as engaging as ever, as they slowly learn more and more about each other while trying to escape. The story, emphasized on the pair, is definitely straightforward as well as minimalist, but it is greatly executed with skill and creativity. The narrative, clever and cunning, knows when to pace slowly and when to escalate, and once it escalates, it escalates rapidly, all the way to the shocking plot twist at the end of the film. With many words to describe the twist (startling, unexpected, extraordinary), Saw thrives as one of the greatest horror movie endings, even recognized by AMC.

Initially, Saw was planned to be a direct-to-video movie, but was later released for limited time to the theaters, quickly becoming a cult. Knowingly, I predicted that a Saw II will be released. My prediction was correct. What I did not predict however is that by the year 2010, the Saw franchise would be made out of eight movies total. Despite Saw II having an interesting explanation of the origin of the Jigsaw Killer, it is best to leave Saw alone as an independent horror film, unique in its own way and distinctive in the horror genre.

In conclusion, Saw is one of the greatest horror films in recent years. Even under the criticism that it is "torture porn," with its excessive amount of violence, blood, and gore, the movie still contains an engrossing storyline, led by powerhouse performances on both lead characters. Probably the greatest thing about Saw is that it does complete justice to the type of horror film it wanted to be. It achieved its goal and went even farther, with a plot twist that was never expected from a mile away and a narrative method that is disturbing yet stunning. With one of the best collaborations in the horror genre, James Wan and Leigh Whannell are indeed masterminds, and have truly created one of the most unforgettable horror films of the 2000s.


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